The number of staff working on processing asylum appeals fell by 8% since 2019, despite a huge surge in applications and a backlog of hundreds of cases.

Figures obtained by RTÉ's This Week programme show that there are currently 850 appeals cases pending before the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT).

However, there are just 46 staff working with the tribunal, a drop of 8% on the numbers in place in 2019 when there were far fewer people seeking international protection in Ireland.

The IPAT is responsible for hearing the cases of asylum seekers who want to appeal against a decision to refuse them asylum or refugee status.

The Department of Justice said there were 50 people working on the appeals tribunal in 2019, but this fell to 46 staff in 2023.

In the same period the number of asylum applications increased by 185% - from 4,781 in the year 2019, to 13,651 last year.

The figures provided indicate that it is likely the number of appeals will increase dramatically in the coming months.

Last year the tribunal completed a total of 1,558 appeals.

The Department of Justice said it had a panel of 42 part time members to hear cases, but these members have "varying degrees of availability to hear cases."

The figures provided also show the number of staff assigned to repatriation fell from 58 in 2019 to 45 last year.

The repatriation office is responsible for the issuing of deportation orders.

However there was an increase in the numbers of people processing initial asylum applications, from 143 to 221 in the same period.

Separately, four out of every five applicants for asylum to Ireland since 2019 were granted permission to remain in the country.

'More staff needed' to process asylum applications

Figures also obtained by RTÉ's This Week from the Department of Justice, show that 10,049 people were allowed to remain after a final decision was made in their case.

In some 45% of these cases it was the Minister for Justice who directly granted permission to the applicant to remain in the State taking into account the person's family circumstances and their connections with Ireland.

In each of these cases the individuals were not allocated refugee status, or subsidary protection, but were granted permission to remain in the country by the Minister.

The number of people who were refused asylum, or the right to remain was 2,910 which accounted for 22% of the cases processed in the last four years.

There are currently 14,849 cases waiting to be processed by the International Protection Office.

Last year, 92% of cases were decided in three years or less, and 62% of cases were decided in two years or less.

There are two applicants for asylum who have been waiting 13 years to have their cases finalised.

However, the department said these delays were exceptional, and such delays can occur for reasons outside the control of the International Protection Office, including where an applicant does not engage or cannot be contacted.